Each year, many Christians from varying denominations welcome the new buds of spring with the celebration of Lent. You might have heard of or even observe the holiday yourself, and there's much you might be curious about regarding the Lenten season that leads up to Easter Sunday. The celebration of Lent is a six-week-long event in the Christian calendar when Christians are meant to be "encouraged to find [their] own method of confronting [their] sinfulness, remembering [their] mortality, and giving thanks for the gift of salvation [they] receive through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ," according to the United Methodist Church's website. The word "Lent" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term "lencten" (relating to the lengthening of days), which translates to "spring."
Here's a look at the holy time that will occur from Wednesday, February 17, to Saturday, April 3, 2021.
How long is Lent?
The holiday is 40 days long, not including Sundays. (So, technically, it's 46 days long.) Why is it 40 days, you might wonder? The United Methodist Church states, "It is a time of preparation and focus, reminiscent of Jesus' time in the wilderness before he started his public ministry."
When does Lent start?
This year, Lent begins on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. But before Lent even begins, there's Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent, which is a time to "clean the soul," according to the BBC. The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, priests gather ashes from the previous Palm Sunday (more on that later) and rub them on congregants' foreheads.
They do this while citing Genesis 3:19: "...For you are dust, and to dust you shall return." In addition to heading to church, many honor the beginning of Lent by choosing to give up something for the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, such as alcohol, sweets, or even swearing. Another option is to give themselves to a cause, which could include volunteering.
When does Lent end?
The official end of Lent is on Saturday, April 3, 2021, the day before Easter Sunday. There's an entire list of events leading up to the finale that's called Holy Week. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. This marks Jesus's arrival in Jerusalem, where he received palm branches at his feet, according to 40Acts.org. During Palm Sunday services, churchgoers are given palm crosses that are supposed to be kept until the next year.
After Palm Sunday comes Holy Wednesday, which acknowledges Judas Iscariot’s plan to deceive Jesus. That's followed by Maundy Thursday and commemorates Jesus's last supper—this is the official end of Lent, but not the finish of Holy Week. Next is Good Friday, when Christians recall the crucification of their savior. The final day of Holy Week is Easter, when believers acknowledge that Jesus rose from his tomb.
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